We're down to one team, yet again
Questions surround football programs heading into winter
In 2009, Newton County saw all three of its high school football teams make the playoffs. Newton, Alcovy and Eastside went a combined 21-9. It truly was football fever this time last year. What a difference a year makes.
Eastside is again the lone playoff representative from the county. The Eagles have played at home the past two years during the playoffs and by virtue of their 21-14 win Friday over Henry County, will paint Sharp Stadium's field with the familiar green and silver yet again. It's fast becoming a fall tradition.
If Newton and Alcovy want to join the fun year in and year out, they're going to need to make some changes this offseason. In my four years of covering all three programs, I have banked several observations. Here are just a few.
Both programs need to make some coaching changes. Newton has a good core but I'm not impressed with some of the decisions I've seen and the way some of the coaches not only act around the players, but carry themselves as a whole. Tactically speaking, I like what offensive coordinator Camille Grant is doing. He's a guy who could have easily been named the head coach in the wake of the Nick Collins firing. Some of the position coaches need to go though. Standing on the sidelines during a game can be hard on the ears sometimes. While I've been know to drop my fair share of F bombs, I don't around kids and I don't around people I know don't like it. I sometimes question how some of these guys were ever hired in the first place. There's no way a teenager will respect you when you act like one.
Head coach Cortez Allen is a guy who has shown to have integrity. And I don't think he wants this type of behavior permeating the program either so look for some changes in the offseason. When I pinpoint one problem from Newton this year it was the carry over from the Collins era. While I know Allen will standby his former head coach, the attitude he brought the Newton's football program was a direct reflection of the problems they've had. That's what Allen had coming into the season so it was what it was. This is his team now so look for him to put his stamp on it.
Alcovy has to evaluate its coaching staff too. While there is some talent among the Tigers' coaching rank, there is also some dead weight. Can an offense that
runs trips right ever single play ever be a legitimate contender? Alcovy's play calling is more predictable than discovering Nancy Pelosi needs Visine after a visit to the optometrist. Organization also seems to be a problem. I point to the loss to Jones County when the coaches were unable to call a timeout to ice the kicker who eventually drilled the game winner. There was a breakdown between the staff and the players. How else can you explain why not a single defensive player saw the entire coaching staff yelling for a timeout?
Finally, the county needs to settle on some boundaries and decide whether they want to make Alcovy a four or five A school and when they are going to build a stadium on campus. Alcovy suffers more than the other schools from location. If you put a stadium at the school, you may financially stimulate that part of the county. Maybe a fast food joint sprouts up. Next thing you know, you may have a small community out there.
If the county redraws boundaries every year and continues to allow students the choice of staying or leaving, you're going to keep perpetuating the stability problem I always seem to hear from coaches. Most high schools traditionally have one or two feeder middle schools. And those middle schools have feeder elementary schools. That's not the case in Newton County. Everyone shares. Alcovy draws its students from Indian Creek and Veterans middle schools while Eastside receives students from Indian Creek and Cousins. Then you have Newton which draws from Veterans, Clements and Cousins. Liberty kids go somewhere but it's not clear where on the Newton County School System website so who knows. The point is, coaches don't know who they are getting until the players get into their schools. And if coaches don't have integrity, it opens up the possibility of recruiting.
There's no reason why Newton County can't have three playoff teams every year, especially now. Everyone is in a similar situation. Let's work on three home games in the opening round of the state playoffs. That's the best way to force the county into thinking about another stadium. Until then, I can't blame the school system for concentrating on what it can do to qualify for Title 1 money. Which if and when that happens, football will be an afterthought.